A few months ago, I threw my hat into the ring to attend the annual Support Driven Leadership Summit, eager to embrace any opportunities my company presents to hone my leadership skills, especially if I get to learn from other experts in the field. The summit brought together leaders in the tech world’s customer support industry for a 2.5 day conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with jam-packed days of networking, engaging talks, panels, case studies, and breakout sessions.
Of course there is much value to be gained from the knowledge shared in talks and panels, to learn from folks in your field who are dealing with similar challenges and may have ideas and solutions you haven’t yet thought of. However, that’s not really where it comes alive for me. For me, it’s all about those intimate face-to-face discussions with peers and colleagues, either prompted by speakers or spontaneously from being in a social environment together. That’s where the magic happens.
I had an inspiring one-on-one breakout session with a woman from India who shared her story of being demoted and using that as an opportunity to carve out space to work on independent projects that ultimately catapulted her career into community organizing, speaking engagements, and division leadership. I de-stressed, strategized, and laughed galore over dinner with 4 of my colleagues with whom I might not otherwise seek reasons to collaborate. I killed time before a flight, strolling along the Charles River with a colleague, sharing stories about our lives past and present, connecting on a much deeper level than we’ve been able to over Slack and Zoom.
All of this served as an important reminder – conferences aren’t just for professional development. They provide an opportunity for deeper connection, which is a key to wellness when you work remotely. We can get very comfortable in our home offices, our personal work sanctuaries that are far removed from the stresses of commuter traffic or corporate fluorescent lighting. However, moments to connect with colleagues face-to-face must be sought out and embraced, especially if you walk the tightrope between introvert and extrovert as I do. I do really well with my alone time, and rarely if ever feel bored or lonely. But the truth is, moments of connection are what charge my battery and keep me inspired.
So, even if getting on a plane sounds like a drag, or you’re not entirely sure that the conference will be valuable, go anyway! You never know what sparks of inspiration or joy might bubble up from an unplanned conversation with a colleague you’ve only ever chatted with via Slack. And you’ll likely get back to your day-to-day routine feeling newly energized and more supported than you felt before the event.
Do you have a similar experience of connection fueling energy or inspiration in your work? If so, share in the comments below!